AFRC Mental Health Requirements Now Aligned with Active Duty

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Amy Hansen, 940 ARW Inspector General
  • 940th Air Refueling Wing

At the end of September, the Flight and Operational Medicine Corporate Board edited the Medical Standards Directory to eliminate the differences between active duty and reserve mental health requirements.  Due to the recent change, Reserve Citizen Airmen with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are no longer automatically disqualified from participating in military duty. 

The change is welcome news to reservists at the 940th Aerospace Medicine Squadron. 

“The former policy made people afraid of seeking help, and that’s not what we’re here to do,” said Staff Sgt. Cathy Saetern, 940th AMDS medical technician.  

For about the last 3 years, depression, anxiety, and PTSD have been conditions that automatically resulted in a Reserve Citizen Airman being prohibited from participating, which is a status commonly called no pay, no points, said Staff Sgt. Kimheak Ly, 940 AMDS medical technician. 

This was based on notes specific to Reservists and Guardsmen found in the MSD, said Saetern. 

The MSD is used across the entire Air Force medical enterprise and lists medical conditions and their compatibility with different types of Air Force service.

In August, the Air Force Reserve Command Surgeon General and the Medical Standards Working Group proposed re-aligning the mental health standards, and the change was approved by the Flight and Operational Medicine Board much more quickly than anticipated, according to Col. Bruce Bender, AFRC Chief of Public Affairs.

In a memo dated Aug. 28, 2018, the new Air Force Reserve Command Surgeon General, Col. John Buterbaugh, had announced his intention to eliminate the differences between active duty and reserve mental health requirements.  The initiative was among several mentioned in Buterbaugh’s memo, and will help the Reserve comply with the former AFRC Commander, Maj. Gen. Maryanne Miller’s, direction to increase efficiency and readiness. 

“As you know, our readiness is contingent upon many factors, first and foremost, medical readiness.  Our lethality stops without ready Airmen,” said Miller.

“It is unfortunate that the execution of the former medical policy led to such distrust in the process but it is understandable and not surprising.  The delivery of the old MSD was abrupt and disruptive, and even the most tactful individual could not prevent the resulting emotion it triggered,” said Lt. Col. Will Lucas, 940 AMDS commander.

According to the memo, the more stringent mental health requirements in the Reserve caused frustration among both providers and members, and prevented many Reserve Citizen Airmen from participating in duty and deployments that active duty members with the same health conditions would have been allowed to complete.  “A policy such as this has further stigmatized behavioral health problems among our members leading to decreased treatment seeking,” wrote Buterbaugh. 

 “The bottom line is that if you end up in a no pay, no points status, work with us and we will work with you to request the proper waiver to continue your military service as soon as possible,” said Ly. 

The 940th AMDS can be reached at (530) 634-1710 to answer any questions about medical readiness.